How to recognise leadership in the IP field

  • Face of leadership is changing to mirror diversity of clients
  • Responsibility of all to nurture talent and share knowledge
  • Must step outside comfort zone and understand AI and marketing

For the final part of our series of insight articles based on interviews with the elite of the global trademark industry, a range of corporate and law firm experts explain what, to them, effective leadership in the IP field looks like. This article is drawn from a new thought leadership supplement , WTR Global Leaders, which is available here.

“It involves making sure that the law grows in a balanced and transparent way”

In the IP field, leadership involves more than simply looking after your own clients’ business. It involves making sure that the law grows in a balanced, healthy and transparent way. IP lawyers often end up educating policy makers, Customs, the police and, of course, the courts; therefore, it is a position of great responsibility as you must balance your clients’ interests with the correct development of the law.

Pravin Anand, partner of Anand & Anand (India)

“The face of leadership is changing to reflect the diversity of our clients and their customers”

The face of leadership across the field is changing to reflect the diversity of our clients and their customers. Clients drive this changing dynamic through their legal expenditures and active participation in organisations whose focus is on diversity and inclusion. ChIPs is an example of what leadership looks like in the IP law field today. It is an organisation that was founded nearly 15 years ago in Silicon Valley by seven female chief IP counsel to focus on advancing women in law and technology. This is the face of leadership: seven female chief IP counsel finding each other and taking action. The changing face of leadership in intellectual property does not get any better than this.

Katherine Basile, partner at Reed Smith (United States)

Leaders are gatherers of information

Leaders in IP law are people who have and seek an understanding of the needs of their clients. Leaders spot issues, devise solutions to address issues and effectively communicate these issues and solutions to their clients. Leaders are gatherers of information. They are prepared to offer recommendations to their clients for complicated situations, but realise that their ideas are not always the best. They allow for the possibility (even the likelihood) that a colleague with a different background or set of experiences may offer a more effective solution. Leadership can be nurtured at an individual level by creating opportunities for less experienced lawyers to be exposed to challenges posed by clients and to offer solutions. Not only will this model help to develop leaders in the profession, it will also give more experienced lawyers the opportunity to benefit from the fresh perspectives of newer lawyers.

James Dimitrijevs, partner at Dinsmore & Shohl (United States)

“Reputations stick, good or bad”

Leadership in the field of IP law means staying on top of dizzying changes in technology, business and society. I remember conducting trademark use investigations by relying solely on outside investigators, when suddenly one day a client introduced me to a brand-new search engine called Google. Our ability to investigate competitors and advise clients changed instantly, and the pace of our practice increased. It is also critical to identify and distinguish between passing trends and tectonic shifts such as the Internet, social media, data governance and blockchain. While technology and the law are evolving rapidly, the importance of maintaining professionalism and relationships endures. When I was a new law clerk, one of my mentors warned me how small the world of IP lawyers can be, and it is true; reputations stick, good or bad.

Michael G Kelber, partner at Neal Gerber Eisenberg (United States)

“Leaders should also have a clear understanding of the global economic environment”

They [leaders] need to be good lawyers who are reputable and influential in their respective practice area or industry. In advocating their client’s cause, just as in running their firm, they must always prioritise legal compliance. They should also have a clear understanding of the global economic environment and the needs of foreign and domestic clients, and possess good communication skills to deal with clients and partners properly. Finally, they need to be kind to their firm’s associates and nurture their development, while remaining strict with quality of service.

James Luo, managing partner at Lawjay Partners (China)

“Leadership in the IP field is the ability to make people’s lives better using IP”

Leadership in the IP field is the ability to make people’s lives better using intellectual property. In a developing continent like Africa, this requires the patience and understanding to educate, assist and empower people with the tools that intellectual property offers in a cost-effective and flexible way. A failure to adopt this leadership position will threaten the adoption and use of intellectual property on the continent.

Darren Olivier, partner at Adams & Adams (South Africa)

“A holistic approach is a key factor”

In my opinion, a leading IP lawyer should not only focus on trademark practice but should also be able to provide clients with a broader service in all areas of IP law, including copyright, design, patents, life sciences and litigation. Prosecution and litigation processes are equally important and both require a strong legal approach. A holistic approach is also a key factor that leads to leadership in IP law, as problems can be solved by using various legal and regulatory means. The key is the ability to find the cheapest, quickest and most reliable method. Since IP law is a fast-developing area, leaders should also be able to track the latest developments, including court decisions and regulatory changes, in order to provide the most up-to-date feedback to clients. A leader should also run a large and sound team in an efficient way to be able to provide high-quality service in a short timeframe and raise new talents in the IP market.

Selma Unlu, senior partner at NSN Law Firm (Turkey)

“Provide thorough, constant feedback and give younger professionals hands-on experience”

Good leaders in our field must establish their devotion to the profession in various ways. First, they should speak, write and educate the younger generation of professionals coming up the ladder. Here, mentoring is critical. Leaders must provide thorough, constant feedback and give younger professionals hands-on experience with increased and greater opportunities as they develop. Second, as our world shrinks, IP leaders should establish and nurture relationships with peers around the globe. Beyond the obvious business upsides, it is good to know how other jurisdictions approach trademark law and how your country fits into the bigger picture. Also, there is something nice about attending conferences and spending time with colleagues and friends from around the globe.

Douglas (Chip) Rettew, partner at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner (United States)

“Leaders have a professional obligation to continue to share their knowledge”

Leadership in the IP world requires genuine enablers, who encourage learning (through practical applications) and developing thought processes. IP and related laws are fast paced, as they are constantly evolving alongside technology. In this environment, leaders are also constantly developing their skills, knowledge and experiences. No doubt, leaders have a professional obligation to continue to discuss and share their knowledge and experiences. Modern leadership often requires multi-jurisdictional skills as a result of working with diverse nationalities. I would encourage younger professionals to:

  • attend conferences and seminars;
  • spend time researching;
  • read files and correspondence when they do not have access to client meetings; and
  • spend quality time with experienced law clerks and paralegals to master the basics of legal practice.

Aditya Verma. senior legal counsel at OSN (Dubai)

“Your clients do not just want legal opinion, they want you to be part of a team”

The IP industry is fascinating and eclectic, as you get to know people from a wide range of backgrounds, including legal, government affairs, investigation, media, academia and information technology. Feel free to talk to people and learn from them. Intellectual property protects and powers

innovation. Go beyond your comfort zone and learn more about the world of your clients to understand brand building, marketing, technological innovation, AI and fintech in different parts of the world. Your clients do not just want your legal opinion, they want you to be part of a team that can make things happen in the market. Build your personal brand and trademark, and polish and leverage your soft skills in regard to presentation and leadership. An extroverted, friendly personality is always a plus.

Lawrence Wong, director, international IP enforcement, Eastman Chemical Company (China)

“You must be a good model for your colleagues”

As a leader of the trademark department of a law firm, I value two important qualities. First, you need to have sufficient experience, a good reputation among clients and a strong sense of responsibility for your work. I handle every email from my important clients and attend every court hearing with my team members if I am available. Second, you must treat your team members well and handle matters impartially. You must be a good model for your colleagues. I work diligently to ensure the development of my team members – I try to be friends and share my own experiences with them. For example, a young lawyer from my team recently wished to apply for an on-job PhD in intellectual property, but he was uncertain whether I would support him. I encouraged him, stating that I had every confidence in him, and he went on to achieve the highest mark nationwide.

Chumeng (Jessica) Xu, partner at JunHe (China)

WTR Global Leaders is available here. Other parts in this insight series include:

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